If you have recognised a tendency in your team to put group harmony above critical decision making, what steps can you take to prevent this turning into the dread disease of “groupthink’?

There needs to be a change in process and a more robust attitude to differing opinions. And that should come from the team leader. This will soon show if the team is descending into groupthink or merely bereft of creative ideas! Follow these simple steps and you will soon have your team buzzing with active problem solutions.

· Retrain the team in brainstorming. Conduct training sessions in De Bono’s Six thinking Hats (Trischel can help) Focus on Green Hat and Black Hat Thinking and insist that all ideas proposed must go through the full Six Hats until critical thinking becomes the norm.

· As the team leader, do not offer any input until after the team has put at least one or two suggestions forward. Any invited expert or senior member should be warned to wait until late in the discussion to put forward their opinions. This will avoid team members accepting ideas simply because they come from a person in authority.

· Always insist that objections to the proposed solution be actively sought. If appropriate, defer the decision and ask for research into alternatives be undertaken and brought to a later meeting. Prompt with the “What if” questions to ensure that all possibilities are considered in the formulating of the solution.

· Invite stakeholders in the decision to a planning meeting and ask them to evaluate the plan from their point of view. Sometimes it needs the person who will have to instigate the decision and work with it to point out possible problems.

· Once a preferred solution is selected, conduct a brain storming session on possible problems that can eventuate. Look at possible risks, and try to predetermine implementation problems and if necessary adjust the solution to cover these.

· After the team has made a definite solution choice, ask them to develop a second solution to the problem. Often the second solution is more creative and robust that the original one.

By ensuring that these ideas are incorporated into your team’s processes you will ensure that your team comes to strong, workable solutions to problems that have been critically appraised and should be able to be implemented without too many unforeseen problems.

No team, following this routine, will be in danger of falling into the dreadful ennui of groupthink. But what if your problem turns out to be a team devoid of creative ideas? Ah … well that is another story for another time! Watch this space!

Michele @ Trischel

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